Highlights

12 november 2012

High-level cyber-attacks could put Canadians out of work, says professor

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Confidential briefing notes from the Public Safety Department reveal that Canada may be moving from being mostly a 'target' of organized cyber-crime coming from other countries, to a 'host' of cyber-crime activities.

"[Malicious cyber-activities] may be shifting to more developed countries such as Canada, the U.S. and France — countries with good reputations," say the notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

But according to David Skillicorn, professor in the School of Computing at Queen’s University, in Kingston, higher-level cyber-attacks are of greater concern.
Professor Skillicorn explains that attribution in cyber security, or figuring out who actually is responsible for something, is difficult to determine, “because there are no borders in cyberspace”.

He says that there are levels of cyber-attack ranging from government attacks on other governments which may lead to cyber warfare in the long run, through cyber espionage, which can have significant economic impact, down to cyber-crime, i. e. identity theft, e-mail spam.

“If the report is about the bottom end of that spectrum, which is where it seems to be, than that’s not really the place where we’re hurting the most”, says Skillicorn.

He is more concerned about higher levels of cyber-crime activities, such as attacks that could trigger power outages across large tracks of Canada, or technology being stolen by companies from other countries, which could put Canadians out of work in the long run.

The notes, which were drafted by Brett Kubicek, Public Safety's manager of research and academic relations, also raise the need for new laws to counter rise in malicious activities in Canada.

RCI’s Gilda Salomone spoke with professor Skillicorn about the spread of cybercriminal activity in Canada.
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